For many Duck football fans, Mat Kearney’s “Coming Home (Oregon)” is a song that’s almost as iconic as “Shout.” The song plays during the interlude between the first and second quarters and Duck fans shout along with the chorus, “I left my heart in Oregon.”
It is also a hit at Kearney’s concerts.
“People will show up in Ducks gear every show,” Kearney says in a phone interview. “Someone asks for ‘Coming Home’ at almost every show.”
Kearney is much more than just “Coming Home,” however. Throughout his music career, Kearney has successfully created hits in numerous genres, including folk, rock, pop and hip hop.
Kearney, 44, grew up in Eugene and attended South Eugene High School. Initially, he was an athlete, and went to Chico State University to play soccer and major in English. It was at Chico State that his path completely changed.
“During that period, my roommate had a guitar, and I started just messing around with it,” Kearney says. He began writing songs during this period as well.
“People really resonated with them, and it felt like this glove that really fit my personality and my love for writing,” he says.
While at Chico State, Kearney met a music producer who was going to Nashville. The producer offered to record his songs if he helped him drive to Nashville. Initially, Kearney was supposed to be in Nashville for only a month. However, he soon realized that this was the place where he wanted to make his career. He remains based in Nashville today.
Kearney then called his soccer coach and parents and announced that he was dropping out of college to become a musician. His parents told him that he had to be able to figure out everything financially, but they would be supportive of his journey.
From his 2006 hit “Nothing Left to Lose” to the present, Kearney has delved into a variety of music genres. Paul Simon was a big deal in his house while Kearney was growing up, and he was also influenced by 1990s hip hop. All these influences and more are present in his music, and Kearney is not done exploring.
“I think my new record is going to have a lot more live, organic vibe to it, which is exciting to me,” Kearney says. “It reminds me of my early days creating music.”
On Aug. 21, 2015, Kearney released the deluxe edition of his album, Just Kids. This edition contains the song most familiar to Oregon Duck football fans, “Coming Home (Oregon).” It’s a song that has quite an interesting history behind it.
“Originally, I wrote this song as a joke called ‘Chip Don’t Go’ when [former Oregon football coach] Chip Kelly left Oregon,” Kearney says. “I put it on YouTube, and it kind of went viral in Oregon. SportsCenter played it.”
Kearney was soon asked if he would be interested in writing a song about the Ducks. He initially dismissed it, noting he doesn’t write songs about football. However, he changed his mind, and decided to write a song not necessarily about football, but about his time in Oregon.
“I wrote it as just someone who’s left but misses this place and always loves returning,” Kearney recalls.
The Ducks organization loved it, setting the stage for the song and the ensuing music video that is played at every home football game.
With his Eugene performances coming up on Feb. 4 and 7, Kearney is excited to come to his hometown and perform at The Shedd.
“It’s emotional and special for me to play there,” Kearney says. “There is no feeling like playing for the community that helped raise you.”